Whole Cotton Seed

How Much Should I Feed?

How Much Should I Feed?

Feeding 5 to 8 lbs of whole cottonseed per cow per day is generally regarded as economical, effective and safe.  Five pounds is about 25,000 seeds.

If greater amounts are fed, careful calculations of gossypol intakes based on the whole seed analysis should be done, especially if more than the recommended amount is fed for extended periods. Consider the need for fat, effective fiber and protein when determining the amount of whole cottonseed to feed. Also take into account the quality of the forages and grains available on the farm, along with the supply and cost of other commodities already purchased or booked. Read more in the feeding limitations section below.

Because each dairy is unique, have your forages tested and work with your nutritionist to develop a balanced ration for your herd. These sample rations from key regions will help get you started.

Feeding Limitations

When whole cottonseed is a particularly good buy, a reasonable question is: how much can I feed?

Many dairy producers in the South and West feed 5 to 8 lbs per cow per day. This is about 15% of the total diet dry matter in a TMR. If you feed whole cottonseed for extended periods (more than 6 months), you need to be aware of the safe levels of a compound called gossypol.

Research conducted at Auburn University suggests that 24 grams of free gossypol is the approximate upper limit for the lactating cow, allowing up to 10 lbs of whole cottonseed per cow per day if the free gossypol is 0.50% or less in the whole seed (22.7 grams). A gossypol analysis is recommended to determine the exact amount of free gossypol if feeding more than 8 lbs per cow per day.

Analyses are usually expressed as a percentage of the kernel (meal plus oil). To convert the percentage of gossypol in the kernel to the percentage present in the whole seed, multiply by .68. For example, if a kernel contains 0.92% gossypol, the equivalent amount in the whole seed would be 0.63%.

If cottonseed meal and/or cottonseed hulls also are being fed, their contribution to the total free gossypol intake also needs to be included, though they may have much less free gossypol than whole cottonseed.

These sample rations were developed by Dairy Profit Weekly, DPW Publishing Co., and Trilogic Systems, St. Paul, Minn.: